Phrases: coordination

In this lesson, students look at phrases conjoined by coordinating conjunctions.


  • Identify different types of phrases which have been conjoined with coordinating conjunctions.
  • Consider the effect of conjoining more than one phrase.
  • Consider the effect of omitting coordinating conjunctions.

Lesson plan

Click on the interactive whiteboard icon (top right) and work through the following slides with students.

Phrases can be joined together by coordinating conjunctions such as and, or and but. Here are some examples, with the conjoined elements marked in square brackets and the conjunctions highlighted:

  1. This was [totally different] and [much calmer].
  2. The students had not met [people with disabilities] or [people in wheelchairs].

What type of phrases are conjoined in these examples?

In (1) we have adjective phrases joined by and, while in (2) we have noun phrases joined by or.

A conjoined unit like totally different and much calmer does not have a single Head, so in that way it is different from other phrases. However, it functions within the clause like a single phrase. Compare:

  • This was [totally different].
  • This was [much calmer].
  • This was [totally different and much calmer].

Can you identify the phrase types which are conjoined in these examples? You can check your answers below.

  1. Do you keep it [in a garage] or [on the road]?
  2. BTP officers are trained to help [extremely efficiently] and [very sympathetically].
  3. There were [seventy-eight men] and [twenty-two women].

Here are the answers:

  1. ... [in a garage] or [on the road]: These are prepositional phrases.
  2. [extremely efficiently] and [very sympathetically]: These are adverb phrases.
  3. [seventy-eight men] and [twenty-two women]: Here noun phrases are conjoined.

More than two phrases can be conjoined. Usually there is only one coordinating conjunction, placed between the last two conjoins:

  • They will find when they arrive horrendous problems of [housing], [food], [sanitation] and [health].
  • And then I had [a beautiful sorbet], [mince pies] and [black coffee].

However, sometimes we find more than one coordinating conjunction:

  • We put [cucumber] and [lemon] and [orange] in the lemonade.
  • It doesn’t matter whether it’s [marsh] or [fen] or [heathland] or [bog] or [sand dunes] or [what].

What effect does this have?

This tends to emphasise each individual conjoin.

We also find examples where there are no coordinating conjunctions between the conjoins:

  • He cannot understand [signs], [advertisements], [messages], [literature].
  • The Minister's personal statement upon his resignation from the Government was [dignified], [witty], [measured], [formidable].

What effect does this have?

Leaving out the conjunctions can give the impression of an open-ended list, as in the first of the two examples above.


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